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Agave is Worse for You than High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Please Stay Away From the Stuff!

Posted Mar 30 2010 12:00am

Agave_syrup1 In recent years, health-minded people and health food restaurants have been excitedly ingesting and switching to the supposed, "safe, "all natural" sweetener agave or agave nectar.

Time and time again, since 2003, four years before my book SUGAR SHOCK! was published in January 2007, I've been warning people that agave is not safe. In fact, I've been telling people, it may be worse for you than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Again, for some seven years now, whenever people have asked me if agave is a good idea to use, my answer has always been the same: "Stay away from agave, because it's very high in fructose and may have more fructose than high fructose corn syrup."

In fact, for years, I've been sadly observing and warning people that agave is a marketing scam (if not a stroke of brilliant promoting). Agave is one of the biggest dupes of the health food industry.

Increasingly, for the last few years, I've become more and more frustrated and annoyed as more and more new "health products" in health food stores and desserts (or even entrees) in health food restaurants have become sullied and made unhealthy by adding agave. Worse still, these products are almost always marketed as being healthy.

Sadly, I've had to become wary and vigilant about eating anything that I find in a health food store or health food restaurant, because inevitably, they use agave -- and a lot! But my cautions have fallen on deaf ears.

Bookcover Interestingly, when my book SUGAR SHOCK! came out in January 2007, it seemed like I was one of only a handful of people raising questions about agave's safety and its potential dangers.

For instance, in SUGAR SHOCK! (in Chapter 22, on pages 307 to 308, in the Frequently Asked Questions chapter), I warned that:

  • Agave is a non-GRAS (not generally recognized as safe) label for highly refined fructose, which is metabolized in your body like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). 
  • Agave has "twice the intensity and sweetness of high-fructose corn syrup," according to food and beverage formulator Russ Bianchi. And overconsuming HFCS, as you can learn from listening to one episode of my Gab with the Gurus Radio Show, has been linked with a host of health ailments, including heart disease, cancer, obesity and metabolic synmdrome. HFCS is found in thousands of processed foods, which you can learn about in this 3 Minute Ad Age piece , for which I was interviewed. ( Watch the short YouTube video here. )
  • Agave may not even be from the Mexican cactus plant, according to experts, because there's been a shortage of blue agave, which is also used to make tequila.

Agave_scabra What I didn't include in my book SUGAR SHOCK! is that I'd heard that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was being either added to agave or even swapped for it! You heard me right.

For years, I never  expressed this alleged concern in writing, because I didn't have proof. (As a trained journalist, it's imperative to verify facts, and I was seeking additional substantiation before going public with this.) But then other people began to make the same claims that your agave may really be HFCS.

Over the years, just about whenever I gave a talk, attended a conference or offered tips online, in my KickSugar group, people would inevitably ask me about the increasingly popular sweetener, especially if they hadn't yet read my advice in SUGAR SHOCK! So in late 2008, a year after my book was released, I also spoke out publicly against agave here, on this Sugar Shock Blog.

Even so, the agave questions -- and doubt about my answers -- kept coming. So I cautioned against agave again here , then again here and most recently here .

Interestingly, despite my very vocal and strong objections to agave, a number of my health-oriented friends, including those from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (a wonderful nutrition school I attended), refused to believe my anti-agave rant and continued to rave about agave's wonderful, sweet taste. Worse still, they would distribute recipes that suggested using agave nectar. Brr! Always, I would silently shudder in horror.

But thankfully, in recent years and especially months, a number of other health experts have joined me in blasting agave and its alleged virtuousness.

As best as I can reconstruct it, here's the timeline.

Continue reading "Agave is Worse for You than High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Please Stay Away From the Stuff!" »

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